Sunday, October 18, 2009

Another Ill-Informed Slippery Slope Suicide Argument.

Justin Katz at AnchorRising today posted a reader response to his post from yesterday regarding assisted suicide. Of course Wesley J. Smith is cited (and to his claim that no one knows what is going on with Death with Dignity in Oregon because the extensive reporting measure was written by advocates: no one knows what is going on at the end of life in the states where DwD is illegal because no reporting mechanisms exist at all).

Katz argues, as many others have, that the presumed slippery slope awaits all of society should the terminally ill, mentally sound patient be given the right to curtail suffering. He writes yesterday:

The cliché of the distopia is a sepia-hued society in which everybody fears to act — fears to do anything but work and support the government. The reality, I prognosticate, will be much more a colorful pictures of people free to indulge their darkest notions but undermined wherever they seek to build something positive.

Sounds like something out of Michel Houellebecq. And today:

...if we're going to determine who is or is not fit to kill themselves, we're also going to have to determine who is or is not fit to make that judgment and to assist. Either determination ultimately draws arbitrary, debatable lines that will not withstand the human slide toward tragedy that is nigh upon inevitable when our society pushes "compassion" in advance of the tragic.

As an example of those "arbitrary, debatable lines" he cites the case of a Minnesota nurse who had his license suspended for participating in suicide chats online and is said to have a "suicide fetish." Charges have no been brought on the nurse.

Most opponents to Death with Dignity willfully get a lot of things wrong about suicide, depression and assisted suicide. They have an agenda to pursue and they enjoy making a "culture of death" out of an administration they oppose.

Two of the most prominent arguments, espoused by any and every opponent you encounter are that suicide is caused by depression and should be treated, not killed off with lethal drugs, and that allowing Death with Dignity will lead to the erosion of care rights for other vulnerable members of society like the disabled or the elderly. Overlay a healthy dose of "sanctity of life, whole cloth" stuff and a learned disdain for personal choice (thanks to the abortion culture war) and you get some pretty irrational arguments for why Death with Dignity should be a crime.

The conflation of suicide and Death with Dignity is most often a tactic, not a show of ignorance. As the first argument goes, if one wishes to end their life, they are depressed and should be treated. They are unable to accept that Death with Dignity electors are already dying, do not want to die, but have come to terms with impending death and wish to hasten it for quality of life reasons. (The legality of suicide in some states doesn't bother this crowd.) Their motivation is a control over suffering. Suffering belongs to God or the state or the medical industry, not to an individual.

The second argument supports the first by drumming up fear. By claiming that all are vulnerable, they hope to rally more to their side of the issue (note the number of anti-Death with Dignity groups like Not Dead Yet, founded to represent the disabled); they ludicrously claim that advocates and patients who support DwD are part of a "culture of death" that is crazy about killing. As with abortion, they fail to show compassion for the individual, all the while claiming compassion for the "least of these." And as with abortion, while some truly lament God's retreat from societal governance, the underlying principle is control and imposition of particular moral values on others.

Katz is working both arguments here.

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